Vitamin D deficiency endemic in UAE due to less exposure to sun

DUBAI — Medical experts have issued a public warning that the deficiency of 
vitamin D is ‘endemic’ in the UAE, due to lack of exposure to sunlight and changes in diet, which leads to an increased risk of osteoporosis, a debilitating bone disease also associated with bone fractures.

By (Staff Reporter)

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Published: Sun 16 May 2010, 12:35 AM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 3:41 PM

The warning was issued by doctors attending the ‘Optimising Osteoporosis Treatment’ Speaker Tour in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, where more than 100 physicians gathered to listen to Professor Erik Fink Eriksen, Professor of Endocrinology and Internal Medicine, Oslo University, Norway, a world expert in osteoporosis, which affects around 30 per cent of post-menopausal women and up to seven per cent of older men.

“Vitamin D insufficiency is endemic across the UAE and the Gulf. Out of 1,000 patients on my list only eight patients have normal levels of vitamin D,” said Dr Al Shehhi, Head of Rheumatology at Al Qassimi Hospital, Sharjah, chair of the meeting in Dubai.

“Insufficiency of vitamin D is one of the major causes of osteomalacia (soft bones) and osteoporosis (fragile bones) both here and across the world,” added Dr Mustafa Al Izzi, Head of the Rheumatology Unit at Zayed Military Hospital, Abu Dhabi, who chaired the meeting in Abu Dhabi.

Many people do not know that they have osteoporosis until they get a fracture and undergo a Dual-Energy X-ray Absorptiometry (DEXA) scan to check their bone density.

In the UAE, deficiency of vitamin D within the local population has become more prevalent in the recent years due to changes in lifestyle, with Emirati men and women spending less time in the sun and eat fewer foods rich in vitamin D, such as fish and eggs, and calcium, most commonly found in milk.

“The Bedouin lifestyle was mainly outdoors, allowing for plenty of exposure to the sun which is necessary for the manufacture and absorption of vitamin D in the body. People also used to drink camel milk every day, providing them with a rich source of calcium,” explained Dr Abdul Rehim Al Suhaili, Head of the Nuclear Medicine Department, Dubai Hospital, who gave a presentation at the Dubai event.

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